Forty, Yo. Is It Really So?

I’ve been thinking off and on for the past few months about how I would open this particular post regarding my 40th birthday. I just didn’t know. For once, I was actually stumped for something to say write.

As it turns out, the best lead came to me the other week when I wasn’t even looking.

I was at a party store, purchasing a few token 40th birthday items for my upcoming mini birthday boat cruise down the hill in Bellingham Bay. The teenage girl at the counter asked, “Are you excited about your party, or do you just feel old?”

Wow. Old. First of all, I’d hoped the clerk would think I was purchasing these 40th birthday items for someone else.  Someone else turning 40. Someone else who looked and appeared far older than me.

The fact that the clerk assumed right away that the 40th-themed party plates, beaded necklace, and tablecloth were for me caught me off guard.

My mind raced. I considered possible replies.

“Well, I have three children, including a TWO-year old, at home who really keep me young.”

“I work out at the gym every day. I taught dance aerobics for seven years.”

“I have friends of all ages. In fact, my own husband is seven years older than me.”

“Haven’t my thousands of dollars into Lancome, Estee Lauder, and Clinique the past twenty years kept me looking young? I guess not.”

I didn’t say any of those things.

“I’m indifferent,” I finally said.

It was the best answer I could offer. I’m not especially excited about this milestone, yet, I don’t feel old. I don’t feel much of anything as it pertains to turning 40.

Actually, that’s not true. I do feel something.

As I have officially reached middle age, I have discovered many things. First of all, it’s much harder to lose weight than gain it. It took me nine months to lose seven pounds last year and three weeks to gain it all back.

I’m more tired and go to bed long before the sun sets right alongside my 8, 7, and 2-year olds.

Now that I am 40, I can’t tease my husband, who reached this decade a while ago, while I stayed blissfully back in my 30s.

However, there’s more. I feel proud turning 40. I actually made it to middle age. If you were there to witness a large part of my life a decade or two before, you’d be as surprised as me that I made it this far.

In spite of some dangerous choices, silly decisions, and roads taken that could have ruined my entire life, I came out the other side.

I’ve always been open with my children about my feelings and my experiences (as long as they were age-appropriate). Before I had children, I always told myself that if I was lucky enough to become a mother, I would be honest and open with my children. I wanted them to feel safe coming to me, no matter what it was they were coming to me about.

Whether those concerns were 8-year old squabbles or 18-year old problems or 28-year old issues, I wanted them to feel safe sharing with me. I wanted to share with them from my own experience. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t. Time would tell.

As a professional writer of articles, essays, and interviews the past fifteen years, I’ve always found the personal essay to be my favorite and most rewarding genre. Along those lines, on my 40th birthday, I’ve decided to introduce a new writing project. Some of it will take form as a new blog series.  I’d like to share a bit of what I have learned along my twisting and turning road in the form of short essays for my children.  I hope the forth-coming collection of snippets about what I have learned along the way—the good and bad—will be of use to my children as they grow.

I hope that one day my children will read my words and benefit. I also know that if they are anything like their mother, they will go their own way and learn what they need in their own time and in their own way.

And that’s okay. I made it this far, and they will, too.

Time to celebrate.

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